Presented under the theme, “Moving together and delivering results”, the 2016 Budget of EC$1.1 billion was presented Wednesday to Parliament by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in his capacity as Minister of Finance.
In his presentation before a Joint sitting of the House of Representatives, Dr. Mitchell highlighted seven top priority areas for his ruling New National Party (NNP) government for the year 2016.
The budget has allocated $456 million for debt, $102.1 million for the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, $75.7 million for Ministry of Health, $12 million more than 2015, $72.1 million for the Ministry of Finance, $55.5 million for Ministry of Works and $50.1 million for Pension and Gratuities.
In addition, there is a $42.2 million allocation for Agriculture and Fisheries, which include $1 million for debt relief to farmers and $500,000 for the farm labour programme that will resume in 2016.
In addition, $27.4 million is allocated for Tourism and Culture and that figure includes $8 million for Airlift.
Prime Minister Mitchell announced that $291.6 million is being budgeted for government capital programmes with a $10.1 million allocation for the construction of the new Parliament building, $5.5 million for Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance, $7 million for road maintenance programmes, and $5 million for concrete works.
There are also provisions for the execution of special projects as $7 million allocation has been set aside for this plus $5 million for construction and refurbishment of government buildings.
Labour representative in the Senate, Ray Roberts on Wednesday told reporters that he does not think that the presentation by the Prime Minister touched the core of the problems in Grenada which is productivity, youth unemployment and skills development.
“What you listened to there is a giveaway from the Prime Minister. As far as I’m concerned he looked like an exhausted, tired Prime Minister needing to be rejuvenating,” he said.
PM Mitchell used the budget presentation to clear up what he described as “rumours” being put out in the country that government is not paying its contributions to the NIS.
According to the Prime Minister, when the NNP came into office in February 2013, government’s debts to NIS was $24.2 million and at the end of October 2015 it was reduced to $20.1 million.
He spoke of his new administration “paying over $4 million in the former government’s arrears.”
“In addition, Mr. Speaker, the government has paid contributions to the NIS every month for the last 33 months of government…this government has paid $68.8 million in cash, since we returned to office in 2013,” PM Mitchell told Parliament.
Sen. Roberts cautioned the people that they should not believe the words of the Prime Minister on the NIS issue.
“Half of what the Prime Minister said there, or most of what he said there relating to the NIS is far from the truth. The only people you should trust on the NIS, is the actuaries – they are the ones from the ILO (International Labour Organisation), they give facts, what the Prime Minister gave there is fiction”, he said.
“…I am challenging the Prime Minister to present to the Parliament the signatures of the Directors, re, the agreement he spoke about with the NIS,” he added.
Sen. Roberts accused Prime Minister Mitchell of using words and fiction to convince the “poorest of the poorest.”
He referred to most of the money quoted in the budget as “fiction” as there were no plans in place for the further development for the country.
“In 2003, Grenada had 20% of the world market in Nutmeg, this is 2015; Grenada has 2%. You heard the Prime Minister talk about anything that could get Grenada back of the world’s Nutmeg share? All you hear he talks about is programmes that would distribute things free and so forth – nothing wrong in that, but Grenada will not develop in giving things free”, he told reporters.
“…You have to get people to work… what we have heard this morning from the Prime Minister is a total sham, a total failure in terms of where we are and where we ought to get,” he said.